Sunday, January 5, 2014

Happy 36th Birthday Melissa!

Your BIRTHday stories...

Dear Melissa,

Every year on your birthday, I have to tell the story of the day you were born...I can see your face, rolling your eyes, but secretly LOVING that I do this every year.  This photo will always be the one I use, because you are forever 30...although I keep counting your birthdays.  Today should be 36.

On January 5, 1978, I woke up in the wee hours of the morning...around 4:30 a.m. to be exact.  Being inexperienced at this, I was pretty sure what I was feeling was contractions.  So we got up, grabbed the already packed suitcase  (and took a picture before we left!) and headed out  It was unusually balmy for January.

Got to the hospital around was baby day.  But not right away (like with Nick...I delivered him in 45 min...but that's a story for another day...March 3...) It was actually a little boring, so we pulled out the deck of cards we had packed...boring too.  Just a few hours later, the contractions  were getting closer, and at 1:19 p.m., our beautiful daughter arrived!

Melissa Marie Fortener

Who would have ever guessed how lucky we would have such a beautiful, funny, insightful, intelligent little didn't disappoint! (of course as parents, we only remember the good times...)

Back in the day, we actually got to stay in the hospital for a couple of days, to rest, I suppose.  During our stay, it had started snowing...a lot.  By the time we left the hospital, there were 4-5 inches of snow on the ground (with a lot more to come-Melissa survived the Blizzard of '78!)...and our car wouldn't start.  Your dad called his college roommate and good friend, Rick Kayser, and he came to the rescue.  Your dad and Rick picked me and your up at the hospital - I held you, in the front seat, dad sat in the back seat on the way home, and we stopped by Grandma and Grandpa Fortener's house, so they, and 7 of your aunts and uncles, could see you.  I held you up to the window for all to see...and they were so happy!  (me too...we had SEVEN babysitters waiting for us to go out!)

I remember most of your birthdays...You had a slumber party in 3rd or 4th grade for your birthday-we have lots of pictures of that...and when you were in high school, your friends surprised you at a basketball game with balloons, and they all came over to our house for a party afterward - have pictures of that somewhere too.  When you were in high school, we started taking you to China Cottage for your birthday.  And you loved that.  Became a tradition.  And we are going today.

The last birthday you got to celebrate, your 30th, you said "my best birthday ever".  Funny, you said that about your last Christmas too..."my best Christmas ever."  Were you trying to help us?  Tell us that we did it up right for your "last"?  I'm happy that they were your best.  I just wish we could have done more.

Since you've been gone...we still celebrate your birthday.  The first one was the hardest.  It was only two days after you left us.  We were at the funeral home making arrangements.  I knew one of the office workers, and I asked her if she would tell you Happy Birthday for us...she left for a minute, came back and said "you can tell her".  They took us back into this room where you were laying on a marble slab, covered with a sheet, but your beautiful face was uncovered.  You looked absolutely beautiful.  And I said that, and the mortician said "I haven't done anything yet."  
You see, I KNEW.  You were a NATURAL beauty. 
I tried to tell you that from the time you were little.  And your mom was RIGHT all along.
After we left the funeral home that day, we went to China Cottage.  Because that's what we ALWAYS did on your birthday.

And we still do.  We are not having a balloon release today, like we have the past 4 years - the weather is not cooperating this year.  But we will do it on your 1/2 birthday when it's warmer out.  But we are going to China Cottage today.  Me and dad, Nick and Mere and the boys.  We always will.
China Cottage can never close, because we won't know what to do!

We love you and miss you every single day.

Happy  36th Birthday Melissa Marie.



Not only are we celebrating Melissa's birthday today...we are remembering my sister Sue, who passed away a year ago today.  The only solace that I get from this, is that Melissa has Sue & John Patrick (and my mom, my brother and Donny's dad) to celebrate with.

I miss you Sue - I miss your daily phone calls, our political conversations, and I just miss YOU.

I love you!

Friday, January 3, 2014

No matter how bad you have it...

There is always someone who would love to be in your shoes.

Five years ago today, at 5:18 a.m. my beautiful daughter Melissa Marie took her last breath.
Who would love to be in my shoes?

The mother whose child died in a car accident.  No matter how you lose a child, the end result is the same...but I got to hold my daughter's hand , lay with her, talk to her when she took her last breath.

The mother who lost her only child.

The mother who lost her child at birth (Melissa)...I have almost 31 years of memories, pictures, stories from friends...i can hear her voice.  I remember her hugs.

Sometimes it's hard to think that anyone would want your problems....but if you just look around, you'll find someone.

Just recently, I was talking to someone who said  they recently had some unexpected expenses...and it was Christmas time.  I reminded him that just a few days before, a man lost his wife, two sons and his father in law in a house fire.  He will live with that for the rest of his life.  Unexpected expenses will somehow be paid and forgotten.  Just look around.

I have learned a lot in the last five years.

Besides realizing that there ARE people who would love to be in my shoes, I learned that I am not alone.  I am not the only person who has suffered the worst pain imaginable...the loss of a child.
Last summer we went to the Compassionate Friends National Conference in Boston.  There were 1500 people there who had lost a child ( or MULTIPLE children)...every speaker, presenter and volunteer lost a child...

We are not alone.

I learned that simple is better.

...that people are kinder than I ever imagined...and I am trying to pay it forward.

...that it's okay to say "No".

I learned that it's important to remember special dates of children gone too soon of friends...because I KNOW it's important to me.

I learned that after a certain amount of time, grieving should be done in the car, in the shower...
and that I have some very special friends who will listen whenever I need an ear, or to cry, or to just talk about Melissa.  I am blessed - a lot of people don't have that.

I learned that some things are easier to forgive than to forget.

I learned that although I couldn't save my daughter from cancer, that I did a pretty good job of raising my kids...and I say that just because of the people THEY chose for friends!

I have realized in the last five years how lucky I am to have a loving, caring husband, son, daughter in law and BLESSED to have two energetic, smart grandsons.

I've learned that some days will be good and some days will be awful.  And thats ok.

I've learned that a memory will happen when I least expect it...sitting in a restaurant and background music comes on - it's a song I KNOW is from Melissa...and the tears will fall.

All of my senses trigger memories.  And I hope they always do.

I will NEVER forget my daughter.
I will NEVER get over her death.
I will think about her ever single day.  As long as I live.

I will miss her laughter...her booming voice...her advice...going to lunch...hearing about her job...her friends...the ups...the downs.  Her handmade gifts (which we are STILL finding!).

I miss it ALL.  Every day.

And every day, for the rest of my life, I will live to remember her brother, her nephews, her cousins and her friends.

But I will LIVE my life the best I can.  For Melissa.

I love you and miss you pretty girl, every minute of every day.  Mom